Speech in Space: International Space Station Blasts Off with Nuance Speech Recognition

There's a new crew member aboard the International Space Station who is never at a loss for words. Clarissa is the International Space Station's new speech-powered virtual assistant, and she helps astronauts check out space suits and analyze drinking water quality - all via voice. In the future, Clarissa will talk astronauts through thousands of important procedures related to life support systems, medical exams, and equipment check-out. Clarissa was created using speech recognition software from Nuance. She is scheduled to begin working with astronauts in May as part of International Space Station Expedition 11.

Pre-Clarissa, astronauts -- when trying to analyze water samples -- scrolled through multiple pages of instructions, following each step of the procedure. Considering that computers and crew members float in microgravity, securing laptops to the International Space Station's walls and trying to type proved more than challenging. During a recent test, speech-powered Clarissa, which recognizes words and sentences, led astronauts through several water quality analysis procedures, listening for "next," "complete" and "repeat" commands before reading the appropriate directive.

At Clarissa's core is a dialogue manager and Nuance's latest speech recognition software. The Clarissa system was developed by scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. and installed on the International Space Station on January 13, 2005. Thus far, Clarissa's has allowed astronauts to focus on the task at hand without having to navigate a PDF guide with a keyboard and mouse.

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